Film Review: The Queen – 8/10

‘You may not be allowed to vote, ma’am, but it is your government...’

The great thing about The Crown is that it doesn’t explicitly comment on history. Instead, it simply projects it, and allows the viewer to draw their own conclusions. Now, the ability to do this is particularly important when taking on a subject as emotive as the death of Princess Diana. There are few more divisive figures in the UK than Tony Blair and Queen Elizabeth II, and so it was vital for director Stephen Frears to take all the disparate elements of this incredible story and weave them into something that was entertainment first and historical document second. Happily, Frears succeeds…

The death of Princess Diana leaves the country and the crown reeling. The Queen (Helen Mirren) massively misjudges the mood of her subjects and it is left to Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) and his ‘Cheshire cat grin’ to lead the way. Elsewhere, Prince Phillip (James Cromwell) spits and splutters like a petulant child, Prince Charles (Alex Jennings) skulks in corners mumbling something about modernising the monarchy and spin doctor Alistair Campbell (Mark Bazeley) pulls the strings from the shadows.

In the wake of huge success of The Crown, this film feels a little like a dress rehearsal. Indeed, The Queen often feels like a prequel episode of that prestigious drama rather than a feature film in its own right. This is more of a reflection of the golden age of TV in which we currently reside rather than a comment on the quality of this film. Peter Morgan’s script is razor sharp and Frears (High Fidelity, The King’s Speech) knows how to take a potentially dry story and turn it into something for the masses to enjoy. It helps when you have a pair of leads as good as Mirren and Sheen. Rather than just a couple of excellent impressions, both of these performances are properly fleshed out and convincing, and Mirren in particular earns her subsequent Best Actress gong at that year’s Oscars.

It may pale in significance when compared to the grand mastery of The Crown, but The Queen is a compelling and captivating account of a month that rocked that monarchy like no other. Thoroughly enjoyable.